RIYADH: The Saudi comedy “Sattar” received high praise at its exclusive premiere here earlier this month, and the producers are hopeful that it will be part of the ongoing love of local content by the Kingdom’s citizens.
The movie was made by Telfaz11’s new production house Al-Shimaisi Films for the premiere on Dec. 22 at Riyadh Boulevard City’s Muvi Cinema, and is set for release across the Kingdom on Dec. 29.
“People will relate to one thing: If you have a dream, you can reach it. But in the film, you can have a dream, and reach it, and laugh about it,” the film’s writer, producer and actor Ibrahim Alkhairallah told Arab News.
The story is about Saad, played by Ibrahim Al-Hajjaj, who dreams of becoming a wrestler while battling failures in his professional and love lives. His plans soon go south when an embarrassing video of him wrestling goes viral.
Feeling hopeless, he enlists the help of the eccentric Ali Hogeen, portrayed by actor Abdulaziz Alshehri, the self-proclaimed most-famous wrestling manager in the region. Hogeen introduces him to an underground wrestling network known as “The Pit,” and Pakistani coach Abdul Khaleq, portrayed by Alkhairallah, who has Saad join the largest freestyle wrestling tournament in the region.
“While the story centers on freestyle wrestling, it’s also about a Saudi man with a passion for it, facing struggles and challenges in pursuit of his dreams,” director Abdullah Alarak told Arab News.
The production company’s philosophy is to acclimate Saudi viewers through the community’s love for comedy, leading them to more sophisticated scripts in future film releases.
“Let’s give the audience what they want now and then give them what we want after. It’s a strategy. Let’s not shock them from the beginning,” Alkhairallah said.
The production team was keen to provide a memorable musical experience through an original soundtrack, including rap songs “Wala Shay” (Nothing) by Ahmed Saddam, and “Lazem Fouz” (Need to Win) by Sudanese rapper Dafencii.
A prominent moment in the movie is Saad’s entrance into the ring with a Sheilat track titled “Sattar.” Sheilat is genre of music influenced by Saudi oral poetry performances, and now also characterized by auto-tuned vocals.
The team of writers found that there was a strong relationship between the genre and the popular wrestling clips found on YouTube during their pre-production and research phase.
Authenticity was key for the production team. Alkhairallah led a writing workshop to ensure that all the film’s details, including common office chatter, set locations, wardrobe, and character interactions was true to Saudi culture.
The film’s stakeholders collaborated with the Saudi Pro Wrestling society alongside the first Saudi wrestler, Naif Al-Mutairi, to choreograph fight scenes.
Professional athlete and influencer Abdullah Abo Rabiah also made it on screen as wrestler Mr. Olympia.
The film’s star Ibrahim Al-Hajjaj, in the role of Saad/Sattar, lost 15 kg during an intense wrestling boot camp four months prior to filming in preparation for the role.
Al-Hajjaj and Alkhairallah were coached by Al-Mutairi on the performance aspect of entering a ring, hyping up the crowd, and initiating a fight sequence.
“There were so many exciting moments during the shoot but I’m happy that I could learn wrestling. That’s the beauty of the acting industry, that you learn new stuff in every role, so I’m really happy about that,” Al-Hajjaj told Arab News.
The cast hopes to bring joy to viewers through a traditional action-packed, musically-driven comedy that caters to Saudi viewers across the country.
“This movie is really important in the context of the Saudi film industry because it’s a local commercial film and one of our beginner initiatives, and we won’t stop at that. There’ll be many films to come.”
“We are a society that loves comedy. We love to laugh and joke around, and that’s our goal with this,” said Alshehri, who plays Hogeen.